January 28, 1846.
CONCLUSION OF THE WAR IN AFFGHANISTAN.
We trust we may now look back on by far the most disastrous passage which occurs in the military history of Great Britain, as so definitively concluded, that in the future we shall be unable to trace it as still disadvantageously operative in its effects. A series of decisive victories has neutralized, to a considerable extent, the influence of the most fatal campaign in which a British army was ever engaged. But this is all. One of our poets, in placing in a strong light the extreme folly of war, describes 'most Christian kings' with 'honourable ruffians in their hire,' wasting the nations with fire and sword, and then, when fatigued with murder and sated with blood, 'setting them down just where they were before.' It is quite melancholy enough that our most sanguine expectations with regard to the Affghan war should be unable to rise higher by a hair's-breadth than the satiric conception of the poet. We can barely hope, after squandering much treasure, after committing a great deal of crime, after occasioning and enduring a vast amount of wretchedness, after a whole country has been whitened with the bones of its inhabitants, after a British army has perished miserably,—we can barely hope that our later successes may have had so far the effect of effacing the memory of our earliest disasters, that we shall be enabled to sit down under their cover on the eastern bank of the Indus, 'just where we were before.' And even this is much in the circumstances.
We have seen the British in India repeat the same kind of fatal experiment which cost Napoleon his crown, and from which Charles XII. dated his downfall; and repeat it, in the first instance at least, with a result more disastrous than either the flight from Pultowa or the retreat from Moscow. And though necessarily an expedition on a similar scale, it seemed by no means improbable that its ultimate consequences might bear even more disastrously on British power in the East, than the results of the several expeditions into Russia, under Charles and Napoleon, bore on the respective destinies of Sweden and of France. That substratum of opinion in the minds of an hundred millions of Asiatics, on which British authority in India finds its main foundation, bade fair to be shivered into pieces by the shock.
There are passages in all our better histories that stand out in high relief, if we may so speak, from the groundwork on which they are based. They appeal to the imagination, they fix themselves in the memory; and after they have got far enough removed into the past to enable men to survey them in all their breadth, we find them caught up and reflected in the fictions of the poet and the novelist.
But it is wonderful how comparatively slight is the effect which most of them produce at the time of their occurrence. It would seem as if the great mass of mankind had no ability of seeing them in their real character, except through the medium of some superior mind, skilful enough to portray them in their true colours and proportions. Who, acquainted with the history of the plague in London, for instance, can fail being struck with the horrors of that awful visitation, as described in the graphic pages of Defoe? Who, that experienced the visitation of similar horrors which swept away in our own times one-tenth part of the human species, could avoid remarking that the reality was less suited to impress by its actual presence, than the record by its touching pictures and its affecting appeals? The reality appealed to but the fears of men through the instinct of self-preservation, and even this languidly in some cases, leaving the imagination unimpressed; whereas the wild scenes of Defoe filled the whole mind, and impressed vividly through the influence of that sense of the poetical which, in some degree at least, all minds are capable of entertaining.
On a nearly similar principle, the country has not yet been able rightly to appreciate the disasters of Affghanistan. It has been unable to bestow upon them what we shall venture to term the historic prominence. When one after one the messengers reach Job, bearing tidings of fatal disasters, in which all his children and all his domestics have perished, the ever-recurring 'and I only am escaped alone to tell thee,' strikes upon the ear as one of the signs of a dispensation supernatural in its character. The narrative has already prepared us for events removed beyond the reach of those common laws which regulate ordinary occurrences. Did we find such a piece of history in any of our older chronicles, we would at once set it down, on Macaulay's principle, as a ballad thrown out of its original verse into prose, and appropriated by the chronicler, in the lack of less questionable materials. But finding it in the Record of eternal truth, we view it differently; for there the supernatural is not dissociated from the true. How very striking, to find in the authentic annals of our own country a somewhat similar incident; to find the 'I only am escaped alone to tell thee' in the history of a well-equipped British army of the present day! There occurs no similar incident in all our past history. British armies have capitulated not without disgrace. In the hapless American war, Cornwallis surrendered a whole army to Washington, and Burgoyne another whole army to Gates and Arnold.
The British have had also their disastrous retreats.
The retreat from Fontenoy was at least precipitate; and there was much suffered in Sir John Moore's retreat on Corunna. But such retreats have not been wholly without their share of glory, nor have such surrenders been synonymous with extermination. In the annals of British armies, the 'I only have escaped alone to tell thee' belongs to but the retreat from Cabul. It is a terrible passage in the history of our country—terrible in all its circumstances. Some of its earlier scenes are too revolting for the imagination to call up.
It is all too humiliating to conceive of it in the character of an unprincipled conspiracy of the civilised, horribly avenged by infuriated savages. It is a quite melancholy enough object of contemplation, in even its latter stages. A wild scene of rocks and mountains darkened overhead with tempest, beneath covered deep with snow; a broken and dispirited force, struggling hopelessly through the scarce passable defiles,—here thinned by the headlong assaults of howling fanatics, insensible to fear, incapable of remorse, and thirsting for blood,—there decoyed to destruction through the promises of cruel and treacherous chiefs, devoid alike of the sense of honour and the feeling of pity; with no capacity or conduct among its leaders; full of the frightful recollections of past massacres, hopeless of ultimate escape; struggling, however, instinctively on amid the unceasing ring of musketry from thicket and crag, exhibiting mile after mile a body less dense and extended, leaving behind it a long unbroken trail of its dead; at length wholly wasting away, like the upward heave of a wave on a sandy beach, and but one solitary horseman, wounded and faint with loss of blood, holding on his perilous course, to tell the fate of all the others. And then, the long after-season of grief and suspense among anxious and at length despairing relations at home, around many a cheerless hearth, and in many a darkened chamber, and the sadly frequent notice in the obituaries of all our public journals, so significant of the disaster, and which must have rung so heavy a knell to so many affectionate hearts, 'Killed in the Khyber Pass.' To find passages of parallel calamity in the history of at least civilised countries, we have to ascend to the times of the Roman empire during its period of decline and disaster, when one warlike emperor, in battle with the Goth,
'in that Serbonian bog, Betwixt Damieta and Mount Cassus old, With his whole army sank;'
or when another not less warlike monarch was hopelessly overthrown by the Persian, and died a miserable slave, exposed to every indignity which the invention of his ungenerous and barbarous conqueror could suggest.
Britain in this event has received a terrible lesson, which we trust her scarce merited and surely most revolting successes in China will not have the effect of wholly neutralizing. The Affghan war, regarded as a war of principle, was eminently unjust; regarded as a war of expediency, it was eminently imprudent. It seems to have originated with men of narrow and defective genius, not over largely gifted with the moral sense. We have had to refer on a former occasion to the policy adopted by Lord Auckland respecting the educational grants to Hindustan. An enlightened predecessor of his Lordship had decided that the assistance and patronage of the British Government should be extended to the exclusive promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India. His Lordship, in the exercise of a miserable liberalism, reversed the resolution, and diverted no inconsiderable portion of the Government patronage to the support of the old Hindustanee education,—a system puerile in its literature, contemptible in its science, and false in its religion. Our readers cannot have forgotten the indignant style of Dr. Duff's remonstrance. The enlightened and zealous missionary boldly and indignantly characterized the minute of his Lordship, through which this revolution was effected, as 'remarkable chiefly for its omissions and commissions, for its concessions and compromises, for its education without religion, its plans without a Providence, and its ethics without a God.' Such was the liberalism of Lord Auckland; and of at least one of the leading men whose counsel led to the Affghan expedition, and who perished in it, the liberalism, it is said, was of a still more marked and offensive character. What do we infer from the fact?
Not that Providence interfered to avenge upon them the sin of their policy: there would be presumption in the inference. But it may not be unsafe to infer, from the palpable folly of the Affghan expedition, that the liberalism in which Lord Auckland and some one or two of his friends indulged is a liberalism which weak and incompetent men are best fitted to entertain. His scheme of education and his Affghanistan expedition are specimens of mental production, if we may so speak, that give evidence of exactly the same cast and tendency regarding the order and scope of the genius which originated them. We have been a good deal struck by the shrewdness of one of Prince Eugene of Savoy's remarks, that seems to bear very decidedly on this case. Two generals of his acquaintance had failed miserably in the conduct of some expedition that demanded capacity and skill, and yet both of them were unquestionably smart, clever men. 'I always thought it would turn out so,' said the Prince. 'Both these men made open profession of infidelity; and I formed so low an opinion of their taste and judgment in consequence, that I made myself sure they would sooner or later run their heads into some egregious folly.'
It is satisfactory in every point of view that Britain should be at peace with China and the Affghans. War is an evil in all circumstances. It is a great evil even when just; it is a great evil even when carried on against a people who know and respect the laws of nations. But it is peculiarly an evil when palpably not a just war, and when carried on against a barbarous people. It has been stated in private letters, though not officially, that a soldier of the 44th was burned alive by the Ghilzies in sight of the English troops, and that on the approach of the latter the throat of the tortured victim was cut to ensure his destruction. And it is the inference of an Indian newspaper from the fact, that such wretches are not the devoted patriots that they have been described by some, and that the war with them cannot, after all, be very unjust. We are inclined to argue somewhat differently. We believe the Scotch under Wallace were not at all devoid of patriotism, though they were barbarous enough to flay Cressingham, and to burn the English alive at Ayr. We believe further, that an unjust war is rendered none the less unjust from the circumstance of its being waged with a savage and cruel people. The barbarism of the enemy has but the effect of heightening its horrors, not of modifying its injustice. It is possible for one civilised man to fight with another, and yet retain his proper character as a man notwithstanding. But the civilised man who fights with a wild beast must assume, during the combat, the character of the wild beast. He cannot afford being generous and merciful; his antagonist understands neither generosity nor mercy. The war is of necessity a war of extermination. And such is always the character of a war between wild and civilised men. It takes its tone, not from the civilisation of the one, but from the cruel savageism of the other.
December 3, 1842.
The poet Gray held that in a neglected country churchyard, appropriated to only the nameless dead, there might lie, notwithstanding, the remains of undeveloped Miltons, Hampdens, and Cromwells,—men who, in more favourable circumstances, would have become famous as poets, or great as patriots or statesmen; and the stanzas in which he has embodied the reflection are perhaps the most popular in the language. One-half the thought is, we doubt not, just. Save for the madness of Charles, Cromwell would have died a devout farmer, and Hampden a most respectable country gentleman, who would have been gratefully remembered for half an age over half a county, and then consigned to forgetfulness. But the poets rarely die, however disadvantageously placed, without giving some sign. Rob Don, the Sutherlandshire bard, owed much less to nature than Milton did, and so little to learning that he could neither read nor write; and yet his better songs promise to live as long as the Gaelic language. And though both Burns and Shakespeare had very considerable disadvantages to struggle against, we know that neither of them remained 'mute' or 'inglorious,' or even less extensively known than Milton himself. It is, we believe, no easy matter to smother a true poet. The versifiers, placed in obscure and humble circumstances, who for a time complain of neglected merit and untoward fate, and then give up verse-making in despair, are always men who, with all their querulousness, have at least one cause of complaint more than they ever seem to be aware of,—a cause of complaint against the nature that failed to impart to them 'the divine vision and faculty.' There are powers, however, admirably fitted to tell with effect in the literature of the country, for they have served to produce the most influential works which the world ever saw—works such as the Essay of Locke, the Peace and War of Grotius, and the Spirit of Laws of Montesquieu—which, with all their apparent robustness, are greatly less hardy than the poetic faculty, and which, unless the circumstances favourable to their development and exercise be present, fail to leave behind them any adequate record of their existence. It is difficult to imagine a situation in life in which Burns would not have written his songs, but very easy to imagine situations in which Robertson would not have produced his Scotland or his Charles V., nor Adam Smith his Wealth of Nations. We have no faith whatever in 'mute, inglorious Miltons;' but we do hold that there may be obscure country churchyards in which untaught Humes, guiltless of the Essay on Miracles, may repose, and undeveloped Bentleys and Warburtons, whose great aptitude for acquiring or capacity for retaining knowledge remained throughout life a mere ungratified thirst.
It has remained for the present age to throw one bar more in the way of able men of this special class than our fathers ever dreamed of; and this, curiously enough, just by giving them an opportunity of writing much, and of thinking incessantly. It is not, it would seem, by being born among ploughmen and mechanics, and destined to live by tilling the soil, or by making shoes or hobnails, that the 'genial current of the soil is frozen,' and superior talents prevented from accomplishing their proper work: it is by being connected with some cheap weekly periodical, or twice or thrice a week newspaper, and compelled to scribble on almost without pause or intermission for daily bread. We have been led to think of this matter by an interesting little volume of poems, chiefly lyrical, which has just issued from the Edinburgh press,—the production of Mr. Thomas Smibert, a man who has lived for many years by his pen, and who introduces the volume by a prefatory essay, interesting from the glimpse which it gives of the literary disadvantages with which the professionally literary man who writes for the periodicals has to contend. Periodical literature is, he remarks, 'to all intents and purposes a creation of the nineteenth century, in its principal existing phases, from Quarterly Reviews to Weekly Penny Magazines. Newspapers,' he adds, 'may justly be accounted the growth of the same recent era, the few previously published having been scarcely more than mere Gazettes, recording less opinions than bare public and business facts.' The number of both classes of periodicals is now immensely great; and 'equally vast, of necessity, is the amount of literary talent statedly and unremittingly engaged on these journals, while a large additional amount of similar talent finds in them occasional and ready outlets for its working.' 'When one or two leading Reviews, Quarterlies, and Monthlies alone existed, they called for no insignificant individual efforts of mind on the part of their chief conductors and supporters, and those parties almost took rank with the authors of single works of importance. But within the last twenty years periodical literature has become extensively hebdomadal, and even diurnal; and, as a necessary consequence, the essays of those sustaining it in this shape have decreased in proportionate value, at once from the larger amount of work demanded, and from the shorter time allowed for its execution. Such essays may serve the hour fairly, but can seldom be of high worth ultroneously.' 'The extent and variety of the labours called for at the hands of those actively engaged on modern cheap periodicals can scarcely be conceived by the uninitiated public. If their eyes were opened on the subject, they would certainly wonder less why it is that the literary talent of the current generation does not tend to display itself by striking isolated efforts: they would also more readily understand wherefore parties in the situation of the present writer may well experience some unsatisfactory feelings in looking back on the labours of the past. Though years spent in respectable periodical writing can by no means be termed misspent, yet such a career presents in the retrospect but a multitude of disconnected essays on all conceivable themes, and such as too often prove their hurried composition by crudeness and imperfections.' The consideration of such a state of things 'may furnish a salutary lesson to the many among the young at this day, who, possessing some literary taste, imagine that the engagements of common life alone stand in the way of its successful development, and that to be enabled to pursue a life of professional writing in any shape would secure to them both fame and fortune to the height of their desires. They here err sadly. No doubt supereminent talents will sooner or later make themselves felt under almost any circumstances; but the position described assuredly offers no peculiar advantages for the furtherance of that end. Ebenezer Elliot, leaving his forge at eve with a wearied body, could yet bring to his favourite leisure tasks a mind less jaded than that of the litterateur by profession.' 'The regular periodicalist, too, of the modern class has usually no more stable interest in his compositions than has the counting-house clerk in the cash-books which he keeps. To publishers and conductors fall the lasting fruits. Let those among the young who feel the ambition to seek fame and fortune in the walks of literature think well of these things, and, above all, ponder seriously ere they quit, with such views, any fixed occupation of another kind.'
There is certainly food for thought here; and that, too, thought of a kind in which the public has a direct interest. If such be the dissipating effect of writing for newspapers and the lighter periodicals, it is surely natural to infer that the exclusive reading of such works must have a dissipating effect also. It is too obvious that the feverish mediocrity of overwrought brains becomes infectious among the class who place themselves in too constant and unbroken connection with it, and that from the closets of over-toiled litterateurs an excited superficiality creeps out upon the age. And hence the necessity to which we have oftener than once referred, that men should keep themselves in wholesome connection with the master minds of the past. Mr. Smibert's remarks preface, as we have said, a volume of sweet and tasteful verse; and we find him saying that, 'most of all, the operation of Periodicalism has been unfavourably felt in the domain of poetry.'
'The position of literature,' he adds, 'in the times of the Wordsworths, Crabbes, and Campbells of the age just gone by, was more favourable than at present to the devotion of talent to great undertakings. These men were assuredly not beset by the same seductive facilities as the litterateurs of the current generation for expending their powers on petty objects,—facilities all the more fascinating, as comprising the pleasures of immediate publicity, and perhaps even of repute for a day, if not also of some direct remuneration. These influences of full-grown Periodicalism extend now to all who can read and write. But it entices most especially within its vortex those who exhibit an unusually large share of early literary promise, involves them in multitudinous and multifarious occupation, and, in short, divides and subdivides the operations of talent, until all prominent identity is destroyed, both in works and workers. To the growth of this modern system, beyond question, is largely to be referred the comparative disappearance from among us of great literary individualities; or, to use other and more accurate words, by that system have men of capacity been chiefly diverted from the composition of great individual works, and more particularly great poems.'
We are less sure of the justice of this remark of Mr. Smibert's, than of that of many of the others. It is not easy, we have said, to smother a true poet; and we know that in the present age very genuine poetry has been produced in the offices of very busy newspaper editors. Poor Robert Nicoll never wrote truer poetry than when he produced his 'Puir Folk' and his 'Saxon Chapel,' at a time when he was toiling, as even modern journalist has rarely toiled, for the columns of the Leeds Times; and James Montgomery produced his 'World before the Flood,' 'Greenland,' and 'The Pelican Island,' with many a sweet lyric of still higher merit, when laboriously editing the Sheffield Iris. The 'Salamandrine' of Mr. Charles Mackay was written when he was conducting the sub-editorial department of a daily London paper; nor did he ever write anything superior to it. And we question whether Mr. Smibert himself, though he might have produced longer poems, would have written better ones than some of those contained in the present volume, even had his life been one of unbroken leisure. It seems natural to literary men, who fail in realizing their own conceptions of what they had wished and hoped to perform, to cast the blame upon their circumstances. Johnson could speak as feelingly, not much later than the middle of the last century, of the 'dreams of a poet doomed at last to wake a lexicographer,' as any literary man of the present time, who, while solicitously desirous to give himself wholly to the muses, is compelled to labour as a periodicalist for the wants of the day that is passing over him. But perhaps the best solace for the dissatisfaction which would thus wreak itself on mere circumstances, is that which Johnson himself supplies. 'To reach below his own aim,' says the moralist, 'is incident to every one whose fancy is active, and whose views are comprehensive; nor is any man satisfied with himself because he has done much, but because he can conceive little.' But to labour and be forgotten is the common lot; and why should a literary man be more disposed to repine because his productions perish after serving a temporary purpose, than the gardener or farmer, whose vocation it is to supply the people with their daily food? If the provisions furnished, whether for mind or body, be wholesome, and if they serve their purpose, the producers must learn to be content, even should they serve the purpose only once, and but for a day. The danger of over-cropping, and of consequent exhaustion, is, of course, another and more serious matter; and of this the mind of the periodicalist is at least as much in danger as either field or garden when unskilfully wrought. But mere rest, which in course of time restores the exhausted earth, is often not equally efficient in restoring the exhausted mind; nor does mere rest, even were it a specific in the case, lie within the reach of the periodic writer. It is often the luxury for which he pants, but which he cannot command. One of the surest specifics in the case is, the specific of working just a little more,—of working for the work's sake, whether at poem or history, or in the prosecution of some science, or in some antiquarian pursuit. There is an exquisite passage in one of the essays of Washington Irving, in which he compares the great authors—Shakespeare, for instance—who seem proof against the mutability of language, to 'gigantic trees, that we see sometimes on the banks of a stream, which, by their vast and deep roots, penetrating through the mere surface, and laying hold on the very foundations of the earth, preserve the soil around them from being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold up many a neighbouring plant to perpetuity.' And such is the service rendered by some pervading pursuit of an intellectual character, prosecuted for its own sake, to the intellect of the journalist. It is the necessity imposed upon him of taking up subject after subject in the desultory, disconnected form in which they chance to arise, and then, after throwing together a few hastily collected thoughts upon each, of dismissing them from his mind, that induces first a habit of superficiality, and finally leaves him exhausted; and the counteractive course open to him is just to take up some subject on which the thinking of to-day may assist him in the thinking of to-morrow, and on which he may be as well informed and profound as his native capacity permits. All our really superior newspaper editors have pursued this course—more, however, we are disposed to think, from the bent of their nature than from the necessities of their profession; and the poetical volume of Mr. Smibert shows that he too has his engrossing pursuit. We recommend his little work to our readers, as one in which they will find much to interest and amuse. We have left ourselves little room for quotation; but the following stanzas, striking, both from their beauty and from the curious fact which they embody, may be regarded as no unfair specimen of the whole:—
THE VOICE OF WOE.
'The language of passion, and more peculiarly that of grief, is ever nearly the same.'
An Indian chief went forth to fight, And bravely met the foe: His eye was keen—his step was light— His arm was unsurpassed in might; But on him fell the gloom of night— An arrow laid him low. His widow sang with simple tongue, When none could hear or see, Ay, cheray me!
A Moorish maiden knelt beside Her dying lover's bed: She bade him stay to bless his bride; She called him oft her lord, her pride; But mortals must their doom abide— The warrior's spirit fled. With simple tongue the sad one sung, When none could hear or see, Ay, di me!
An English matron mourned her son, The only son she bore: Afar from her his course was run— He perished as the fight was done— He perished when the fight was won— Upon a foreign shore. With simple tongue the mother sung, When none could hear or see, Ah, dear me!
A Highland maiden saw A brother's body borne From where, from country, king, and law, He went his gallant sword to draw; But swept within destruction's maw, From her had he been torn. She sat and sung with simple tongue, When none could hear or see, Oh, hon-a-ree!
An infant in untimely hour Died in a Lowland cot: The parents own'd the hand of power That bids the storm be still or lour; They grieved because the cup was sour, And yet they murmured not. They only sung with simple tongue, When none could hear or see, Ah, wae's me!
July 26, 1851.
We have now reached the close of the most wonderful year the world ever saw. None of our readers can be unacquainted with the poem in which Dryden celebrated the marvels of the year 1666,—certainly an extraordinary twelvemonth, though the English poet, only partially acquainted with the events which rendered it so remarkable, restricts himself, in his long series of vigorous quatrains, to the description of the two naval battles with the Dutch which its summer witnessed, and of the great fire of London which rendered its autumn so remarkable.
He might also have told that it was a year of great fear and expectation among both Christians and Jews. The Jews held that their Messiah was to come that year; and, in answer of the expectation, the impostor Sabbatei Levi appeared to delude and disappoint the hopes of that unhappy nation. There was an opinion nearly equally general in the Roman Catholic world, that it would usher in the Antichrist of New Testament prophecy; while among English Protestants it was very extensively believed that it was to witness the end of the world and the final judgment. It was remarkable, too, as the year in which oppression first compelled the Scotch Presbyterians of the reign of Charles II. to assume the attitude of armed resistance, and as forming, in the estimate of Burnet and other intelligent Protestants, the fifth great crisis of the Reformed religion in Europe. And such were the wonders of the Annus Mirabilis of Dryden: two bloody naval engagements; a great fire; the appearance of a false Messiah; a widely-spread fear that the end of the world and the coming of Antichrist were at hand; the revolt from their allegiance to the reigning monarch of a sorely oppressed body of Christians, maddened by persecution; and a perilous crisis in the general history of Protestantism.
The year now at its close has been beyond comparison more remarkable. In the earlier twelvemonth, no real change took place in the existing state of things. Its striking events resembled merely the phenomena of a mid-winter storm in Greenland, where, over a frozen ocean, moveless in the hurricane as a floor of rock or of iron, the hail beats, and the thick whirling snows descend, and, high above head, the flashings of aurora borealis lend their many-coloured hues of mystery to the horrors of the tempest. Its transactions, picturesque rather than important, wholly failed to affect the framework of society. That floor of ice which sealed down the wide ocean of opinion retained all its mid-winter solidity, and furnished foundations as firm as before for the old despotic monarchies and the blood-stained persecuting churches. But how immensely different the events of the year now at an end! Its tempests have been, not those of a Greenland winter, but of a Greenland spring: the depths of society have been stirred to the dark bottom, where all slimy and monstrous things lie hid, and, under the irresistible upheavings of the ground-swell, the ice has broken up; and amid the wide weltering of a stormy sea, cumbered with the broken ruins of ancient tyrannies, civil and ecclesiastical, the eye can scarce rest upon a single spot on which to base a better order of things. The 'foundations are removed.' A time of great trouble has come suddenly upon the kingdoms of Europe—a time of 'famines, and pestilences, and fearful sights, and great signs from heaven;' 'signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.'
The extreme stillness of the calm by which this wide-roaring tempest has been preceded, forms one of not the least extraordinary circumstances which impart to it character and effect. In the Vision of Don Roderick, the fated monarch is described as pausing for a time amid the deep silence of a vast hall, pannelled and floored with black marble, and sentinelled by two gigantic figures of rigid bronze that stand moveless against the farther wall. The one, bearing a scythe and sand-glass, is the old giant Time; the other, armed with an iron mace, is the grim angel of Destiny. Not a sound or motion escapes them. In that dim apartment nothing stirs save the sands in the glass, and the inflexible look of the stern mace-bearing sentinel marks how they ebb. The last grains are at length moving downwards—they sink, they disappear; and now, raising his ponderous mace, he dashes into fragments the marble wall: a scene of savage warfare gleams livid through the opening, and the wide vault re-echoes to the hollow tread of armies, the shrill notes of warlike trumpets, the rude clash of arms, and the wild shouts of battle. And such, during the last few years, has been the stillness of the preliminary pause, and such was the abrupt opening, when the predestined hour at length arrived, of those clamorous scenes of revolution and war which impart so remarkable a character to the year gone by. A twelvemonth has not yet passed since history seemed to want incident. Time and Destiny watched as statue-like sentinels in a quiet hall, walled round by the old rigid conventionalities, and human sagacity failed to see aught beyond them; the present so resembled the past, that it seemed over-boldness to anticipate a different complexion for the future. But, amid the unbreathing stillness, the appointed hour arrived. The rigid marble curtain of the old conventionalities was struck asunder by the iron mace of Destiny; and the silence was straightway broken by a roar as if of many waters, by the wrathful shouts of armed millions—the thunderings of cannon, blent with the rattle of musketry—the wild shrieks of dismay and suffering—the wailings of sorrow and terror—the shouts of triumph and exultation—the despairing cry of sinking dynasties, and the crash of falling thrones. And with what strange rapidity the visions have since flitted along the opened chasm!
A royal proclamation forbids in Paris a political banquet; four short days elapse, and France is proclaimed a Republic, and Louis Philippe and his Ministers have fled. Britain at once recognises the Provisional Government; but what are the great despotisms of the Continent to do? Six days more pass, and the Canton of Neufchatel declares itself independent of Prussia. In a few days after, the Duke of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha grants to his subjects a representative constitution, freedom of the press, and trial by jury; the King of Hanover has also to yield, and the King of Bavaria abdicates. These, however, are comparatively small matters. But still the flame spreads. There is a successful insurrection at Vienna, the very stronghold of despotism in central Europe; and the Prime Minister, Metternich, the grim personification of the old policy, is compelled to resign. Then follows an equally successful insurrection at Berlin; Milan, Vicenza, and Padua are also in open insurrection. Venice is proclaimed a Republic. Holstein declares itself independent of Denmark, Hungary of Austria, Sicily of Naples. Prague and Cracow have also their formidable outbreaks. Austria and Prussia proclaim new constitutions. Secondary revolutionary movements in both Paris and Vienna are put down by the military. There are bloody battles fought between the Austrians and the Piedmontese on the one hand, and the Germans and the Danes on the other; and, in a state of profound peace, the people of a British port hear from their shores the boom of the hostile cannon. The Emperor of Austria abdicates his throne, the Pope flees his dominions, and a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte is elected President of France. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the ebullitions of the revolutionary element serve but to demonstrate its own weakness. In both England and Scotland, the moral and physical force of the country—in reality but one—arrays itself on the side of good order and the established institutions. A few policemen put down, without the assistance of the military, the long-threatened rebellion in Ireland; and the Sovereign Lady of the empire, after journeying among her subjects, attended by a retinue which only a few ages ago would have been deemed slender for a Scotch chieftain or one of the lesser nobility, and without a single soldier to protect her, and needing no such protection, spends her few weeks of autumn leisure in a solitary Highland valley,—a thousand times more secure in the affections of a devoted and loyal people than any other European monarch could have been in the midst of an army of an hundred thousand men. Such are some of the wonderful events which have set their stamp on the year now at its close.
We regard the old state of things as gone for ever. The foundations have broken up on which the ancient despotisms were founded. It would seem as if 'the stone cut out without hands' had fallen during the past year on the feet of the great image, and ground down into worthless rubbish the 'iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold.' And 'the wind,' though not yet risen to its height, seems fast rising, which will sweep them all away, 'like the chaff of the summer thrashing-floor;' so that 'there shall be no place found for them.' But while we can entertain no hope for the old decrepit despotisms, we cannot see in the infidel liberalism—alike unwise and immoral—by which they are in the course of being supplanted, other than a disorganizing element, out of which no settled order of things can possibly arise. It takes the character, not of a reforming principle destined to bless, but of an instrument of punishment, with which vengeance is to be taken for the crimes and errors of the past; and, so far at least, a time when we need expect to witness but the struggles of the two principles—the old and the new—as they act and react against each other, stronger and weaker by turns, as they disgust and alienate by their atrocities in their hour of power such of the more moderate classes as had taken part with them in their hour of weakness. It is the grand error of our leading statesmen, that they fail to appreciate the real character of the crisis, and would fain deal with the consequent existing difficulties in that petty style of diplomatic manoeuvre with which it was their wont to meet the comparatively light demands of the past. It would seem as if we had arrived at a stage in the world's history in which statesmanship after this style is to be tolerated no longer. How instructive, for instance, the mode in which, for the present at least, an all-governing Providence has terminated the negotiations of this country with the Pope! Contrary to the wishes and principles of the sound-hearted portion of the British people, our leading statesmen open up by statute their diplomatic relations with the Pope, palpably with the desire of governing Ireland through the influence of that utterly corrupt religion which has made that unhappy island the miserable lazar-house that it is; and, lo! Providence strikes down the ghostly potentate, and virtually, for the present, divests him of that 'property qualification' in virtue of which the relation can alone be maintained. But not less infatuated than our statesmen, and even less excusably so, are those men—professedly religious and Protestant, but of narrow views and weak understandings—who can identify the cause of Christ with the old tottering despotisms and the soul-destroying policy of princes such as the late Emperor of Austria, and of ministers such as Metternich. It would not greatly surprise us to see Protestants of this high Tory stamp, who have been zealous against Popery all their lives long, taking part in the 'lament of the merchants and mariners' over the perished Babylon, when they find that the representatives of the Roman Emperors must fall with the Roman See. There are two wild beasts, like those which Daniel saw in vision, contending together in fierce warfare,—the old Babylonish beast, horrid with the blood of saints, and its cruel executioner—the monster of Atheistic Liberalism; but Christ has identified His cause with neither. No reprieve from the prince awaits the condemned culprit; and with the disreputable and savage executioner he will hold no intercourse. Destruction, from which there is no escape, awaits equally on both.
We began with a reference to Dryden's Year of Wonders: we conclude with an anecdote regarding that year, connected with the history of one of the most eminent judges and best men England ever produced. It needs no application, showing as it does, with equal simplicity and force, how and on what principle the terrors of years such as the 'Annus Mirabilis' of the seventeenth century, or the 'Annus Mirabilis' of our own, may be encountered with the greatest safety and the truest dignity. We quote from Bishop Burnet's Life of Sir Matthew Hale:—
'He' (Sir Matthew), says the Bishop, 'had a generous and noble idea of God in his mind; and this he found, above all other considerations, preserve his quiet. And, indeed, that was so well established in him, that no accidents, how sudden soever, were observed to discompose him, of which an eminent man of that profession gave me this instance:—In the year 1666 an opinion did run through the nation that the end of the world would come that year. This, whether set on by astrologers, or advanced by those who thought it might have some relation to the number of the beast in the Revelation, or promoted by men of ill designs to disturb the public peace, had spread mightily among the people; and Judge Hale going that year the Western Circuit, it happened that, as he was on the bench at the assizes, a most terrible storm fell out very unexpectedly, accompanied with such flashes of lightning and claps of thunder, that the like will hardly fall out in an age; upon which a whisper ran through the crowd, "that now was the world to end, and the day of judgment to begin." And at this there followed a general consternation in the whole assembly, and all men forgot the business they were met about, and betook themselves to their prayers. This, added to the horror raised by the storm, looked very dismal, insomuch that my author—a man of no ordinary resolution and firmness of mind—confessed it made a great impression on himself. But he told me "that he did observe the judge was not a whit affected, and was going on with the business of the court in his ordinary manner;" from which he made this conclusion: "that his thoughts were so well fixed, that he believed, if the world had been really to end, it would have given him no considerable disturbance!'"
December 30, 1848.
EFFECTS OF RELIGIOUS DISUNION ON COLONIZATION.
It is well that there should exist amongst the evangelistic churches at least a desire for union. We do not think they will ever be welded into one without much heat and many blows. Popery, with mayhap Infidelity for its assistant, will have first to blow up the coals and ply the hammer; but it is at least something that the various pieces of the broken and shivered Church catholic should be coming into contact, drawn together as if by some strong attractive influence, and that there should be so many attempts made to fit into each other, though with but indifferent success, the rough-edged inflexible fragments. It is much that the attractive influence should exist. Among the many inventions of modern times, a singularly ingenious one has been brought to bear on the smelting of iron. A powerful magnetic current is made to pass in one direction through the furnace, which imparts to each metallic particle a loadstone-like affinity for all the others; and no sooner has the heat set them free, than, instead of sinking, as in the old process, through the molten stony mass to the bottom, solely in effect of their superior gravity—a tedious, and in some degree uncertain process—they at once get into motion in the line of the current, and unite, in less than half the ordinary time under any other circumstances, into a homogeneous, coherent mass. May we not indulge the expectation of similar results from the magnetic current of attraction, if we may so speak, which has so decidedly begun to flow through the evangelistic churches? True, so long as the little bits remain unmolten, however excellent their quality, they but clash and jangle together, if moved by the influence at all; but should the furnace come to be seven times heated, it will scarce fail to give unity of motion and a prompt coherency to all the genuine metal, however minute, in its present state, the particles into which it is separated, or however stubborn the stony matrices which dissociate these from the other particles, one in their origin and nature, that lie locked up in the sullen fragments around.
Never perhaps was there a time when the great disadvantages of disunion were so pressed in a practical form on the notice of the churches as at the present. It formed the complaint of one of our better English writers considerably more than a century ago, that we had religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another. At that time, however, sects, to employ one of Bacon's striking phrases, 'had not so grown to equality' as now; and storms in the moral world, as in the natural 'at the equinoxia,' when night and day are equal, are commonly greatest, adds the philosopher, 'when things do grow to equality.' The unestablished Protestant denominations formed in the times of Queen Anne a mere feeble moiety, that could raise no efficient voice against the established religion; and Popery, newly thrust under feet, after a formidable struggle, that threatened to overturn the constitution of the country, had no voice at all. Matters are very different now: things have grown to an equality; night and day, as 'at the equinoxia,' have become nearly equal; and society can scarce take one step for the general benefit, without experiencing, as a thwarting and arresting influence, the effects of religious difference. Do we regret that the Government of a country such as ours should be practically irreligious in its character? Alas! were every Government functionary in the empire a thoroughly religious man, Government could not act otherwise than it does in not a few instances, just in consequence of our religious differences. Are there millions of the people sinking into brutality and ignorance, and do our rulers originate a scheme of education in their behalf?—our religious differences straightway step in to arrest and cripple the design. Are there whole districts of country subjected to famine, and are we roused, both as Britons and as Christians, to contribute of our substance for their relief?—our religious differences immediately interfere; and a Church greatly more identified by membership with the sufferers than any other, has to fight a hard battle ere she can be permitted to co-operate in the general cause. Is there a ragged-school scheme originated in the capital, to rescue the neglected perishing young among us from out the very jaws of destruction?—forthwith rival institutions start up, on the ground of religious differences, to dwarf one another into inefficiency, like starveling shrubs in a nursery run wild; and projected exertions in the cause of degraded and suffering humanity degenerate into an attack on a benevolent Presbyterian minister, who refuses to accept, from conscientious motives, of a directorship in a Popish institution. This is surely a sad state of things,—a state grown very general, and which threatens to become more so; and in a due sense of the weakness for all good which it creates, and of the palpable state of disorganization and decomposition favourable to the growth of every species of evil, physical and moral, which it induces, we recognise at least one of the causes of the general desire for union. To no one circumstance has Rome owed more of its success than to the divisions of the Protestant Church; and great as that success has been in our own country, where, as 'at the equinoxia,' day and night are fast 'growing to equality,' it is but slight compared with what she has experienced in America and the colonies. It is a serious consideration in an age like the present, in which the country looks to emigration for relief from the pressure of a superabundant population, that religion has suffered more in the colonies from its sectarian divisions, than from every other cause put together.
The way in which the mischief comes to be done is easily conceivable. The Protestant emigrants of the country quit it always, with regard to their churchmanship, as a mere undisciplined rabble. The Episcopalian sets sail in the same vessel, and for the same scene of labour, as the Independent—the Free Churchman with the Baptist—the Methodist with the Original Seceder—the Voluntary with the Establishment-man; and they squat down together on contiguous lots, amid the solitude of the forest. Were they all of one communion, there might be scarce any break created in their old habits of church-going and religious instruction. The community, considerable as a whole, though very inconsiderable in its parts when broken up into denominational septs, would have its minister of religion from its first settlement, or almost so; and, from the rapid increase which takes place in all new colonies in congenial countries and climates, the charge of such a minister would be soon a very important one, and adequate to the full development of the energies of a superior man.
But alas for the numerous denominational septs! Years must elapse, in some instances many years, ere—few and scattered, and necessarily deprived of every advantage of the territorial system—they can procure for themselves religious teachers: they fall gradually, in the interim, out of religious habits, or there rises among them a generation in which these were never formed; and when at length a sept does procure a teacher, generally, from the comparative fewness of their numbers, the extent of district over which they are spread, and the lukewarmness induced among them by their years of deprivation—circumstances which make the charge of such a people no very desirable one to a man who can procure aught better, and which have some effect also in rendering their choice in such matters not very discriminating—he is frequently of a character little suited to profit them. They succeed too often in procuring not missionaries, nor men such as the ministers of higher standing, that divide the word to the congregations of the mother country, but the country's mere remainder preachers, who, having failed in making their way into a living at home, seek unwillingly a bit of bread in the unbroken ground of the colonies. The circumstances of Popery as a colonizing religion are in all respects immensely more favourable. For every practical purpose, it is one and united: it is furnished with an army of clergy admirably organized, and set peculiarly loose for movement at the will of the general ecclesiastical body by their law of celibacy. It possesses in prolific Ireland a vast propelling heart, if we may so speak, ever working in sending out the blood of a singularly bigoted Romanism to every quarter of the world. It has already begun to influence the elections of the United States; and should the Papal superstition be destined to live so long, and should its membership continue to increase at the present ratio, there will be as many Papists a century hence in the great valley of the Mississippi, and the tracts adjacent, as are at present in all Europe. In no field in the present day has Rome more decidedly the advantage than in that of colonization; and it is surely a serious consideration that it should owe its successes in such large measure to the divisions of Protestantism.
But these divisions exist, and no amount of regret for the mischief which they occasion will serve to lessen them. We are not disposed to give up a single tenet which we hold as Free Churchmen; and our brother Protestants of the other denominations are, we find, quite as tenacious of their distinctive holdings as ourselves. And so the evils consequent on disunion in infant colonies and settlements-evils which, when once originated, continue to propagate themselves for ages—must continue, in cases of promiscuous emigration, to be educed, and Rome to profit by them. We find a vigorous attempt to grapple with the difficulty, by rendering emigration not promiscuous, but select, originated by a branch of the New Zealand Company, which we deem worthy of notice. It is calculated, from the proportion which they bear to the entire population of the country, that from a thousand to fifteen hundred Free Church people emigrate from Scotland every year. A number equal to a large congregation quit it yearly for the colonies; but absorbed among all sorts of people—in Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the United States, Australia, and Southern Africa, etc. etc.—these never reappear as congregations, but are subjected, in their scattered, atomic state, to the deteriorating process, religious and educational, to which we have referred as inevitable under that economy of promiscuous emigration unhappily so common in these latter times. In an earlier age the case was different. The Pilgrim Fathers who first planted New England were so much at one in their tenets, that they had no difficulty in making the laws of the colony a foundation on which to erect the platform both of a general church and of an educational institute; and till this day, the character, moral and intellectual, of that part of the States tells of the wisdom of the arrangement. Now why, argue the Company, might not a similar result be produced in the present age, by directing the Free Church portion of the outward stream of emigration, or at least a sufficient part of it, into one locality? If the disastrous effects of division cannot be prevented by reconciling the disagreements of those who already differ, they may be obviated surely, to a large extent, by bringing into juxtaposition those who already agree. And on this simple principle the Company has founded its Free Church colony of Otago. Of course, regarding the secular advantages of the colony, we cannot speak. New Zealand has been long regarded as the Great Britain of the southern hemisphere. It possesses for a European constitution peculiar advantages of climate; the neighbourhood of the settlement, for several hundred miles together, is deserted by the natives; Government is pledged to the appointment of a Royal Commissioner to watch over the interests of Her Majesty's subjects in connection with the Company, and to afford them protection; the committee for promoting the settlement of the colony includes some of the most respected names in the Free Church; and thus, judged by all the ordinary tests, it seems to promise at least as well as any other resembling field of enterprise open at the present time. But respecting the principles involved in this scheme of colonization, we can speak more directly from the circumstance that we find them recognised as just and good by the General Assembly of our Church. The records of the Assembly of 1845 bear the following deliverance on the subject:—'The General Assembly learn with great pleasure the prospect of the speedy establishment of the Scotch colony of New Edinburgh [now Otago] in New Zealand, consisting of members of the Free Church, and with every security for the colonists being provided with the ordinances of religion and the means of education in connection with this Church. Without expressing any opinion regarding the secular advantages or prospects of the proposed undertaking, the General Assembly highly approve of the principles on which the settlement is proposed to be conducted, in so far as the religious and educational interests of the colonists are concerned; and the Assembly desire to countenance and encourage the association in these respects.'
We have seen the waste of mind which takes place in the colonies of a very highly civilised country adverted to in a rather fanciful and rationalistic connection with the desponding reply of the captive Jews to their spoilers: 'How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?' Ages, sometimes whole centuries, elapse, remarks the commentator, ere the colonies of even eminently literary nations come to possess poets and fine writers of their own. There is first a struggle for bare existence among the colonists, during which the higher branches of learning are necessarily neglected; and when a better time at length comes, the general mind is found to have acquired, during the struggle, a homely and utilitarian cast, which militates against the right appreciation, and of course the production, of what is excellent. And thus the true divinities of song fail to be sung in a foreign land. There is, we doubt not, truth in the remark, though somewhat quaintly expressed, and somewhat doubtfully derived. The necessities of a colony in its youth, and the peculiar cast of mind which they serve to induce, are certainly not favourable to the development of poetic genius. But there is, alas! another and more scriptural sense in which the 'Lord's song' too often ceases to be sung in a strange land. We have already adverted to the process of deterioration, moral and religious, through which it comes to be silenced; and it is one of the advantages of the Otago scheme, that it makes provision in, we believe, the most effectual way possible, in the present divided state of Protestantism, for preventing a result so deplorable. Youth is an important season, as certainly in colonies as in individuals; and we question whether the characteristic recklessness of Yankeeism in the far west and south may not be legitimately traced to the neglected youthhead of the States in which it is most broadly apparent. The deterioration of a single generation left to run wild may influence for the worse, during whole centuries, the character of a people; and who can predicate what these colonies of the southern hemisphere are yet to become? They may be great nations, influencing for good or evil the destinies of the species in ages of the world when Britain shall have sunk into a subordinate power, or shall have no name save in history. Those records of the past, from which we learn that states and peoples, as certainly as families and individuals, are born and die, and have their times of birth and of burial, may serve to convince us that the melancholy reflection of one of our later poets on this subject is by no means a fanciful one:
'My heart has sighed in secret, when I thought That the dark tide of time might one day close, England, o'er thee, as long since it has closed On Egypt and on Tyre,—that ages hence, From the Pacific's billowy loneliness, Whose tract thy daring search revealed, some isle Might rise, in green-haired beauty eminent, And like a goddess glittering from the deep, Hereafter sway the sceptre of domain From pole to pole; and such as now thou art, Perhaps New Zealand be. For who can say What the Omnipotent Eternal One, That made the world, hath purposed?'
June 16, 1847.
Of all the dangers to which the Free Church is at present exposed, we deem the danger of fine-bodyism at once the least dreaded and the most imminent. And the evil is in itself no light one: it marks, better than any of the other isms—even the heresies themselves—the sinking of a Church that is never to rise again. Churches have been affected by dangerous heresies both of the hot and the cold kinds, and have yet shaken them off and recovered. The Presbyterians of Ireland, now so sound in their creed, were extensively affected, little more than half a century ago, by Arian error and the semi-infidelity of Socinus; and the Church that in 1843 had become vigorous enough to dare the Disruption, recorded in the year 1796 its vote against missions, and framed in the year 1798 its law against church extension. But we know of no Church that ever recovered from fine-bodyism when the disease had once fairly settled into its confirmed and chronic state. In at least this age and country it exists as the atrophy of a cureless decline. It were well, however, that we should say what it is we mean by fine-bodyism; and we find we cannot do better than quote our definition from the first speech ever delivered by Chalmers in the General Assembly. 'It is quite ridiculous to say,' remarked this most sagacious of men, 'that the worth of the clergy will suffice to keep them up in the estimation of society. This worth must be combined with importance. Give both worth and importance to the same individual, and what are the terms employed in describing him? "A distinguished member of society, the ornament of a most respectable profession, the virtuous companion of the great, and a generous consolation to all the sickness and poverty around him." These, Moderator, appear to me to be the terms peculiarly descriptive of the appropriate character of a clergyman, and they serve to mark the place which he ought to occupy; but take away the importance and leave only the worth, and what do you make of him? What is the descriptive term applied to him now? Precisely the term which I often find applied to many of my brethren, and which galls me to the very bone every moment I hear it—"a fine body"—a being whom you may like, but whom I defy you to esteem—a mere object of endearment—a being whom the great may at times honour with the condescension of a dinner, but whom they will never admit as a respectable addition to their society. Now, all that I demand from the Court of Teinds is to be raised, and that as speedily as possible, above the imputation of being "a fine body;" that they would add importance to my worth, and give splendour and efficacy to those exertions which have for their object the most exalted interests of the species.'
The Free Church has for ever closed her connection with the Court of Teinds; but her danger from fine-bodyism is in consequence all the greater, not the less. The Sustentation Fund is her Court of Teinds now; and it is to it that she has in the first instance to look for protection from the all-potent but insidious and vastly under-estimated evil under which no Church ever throve. The outed ministers are comparatively safe. Unless prudence be altogether wanting, and the wolf comes to the door, not, as in the child's story-book, in the disguise of a soft-voiced girl, but in that of a gruff sheriff's officer, they will continue to bear through life the old status of the Establishment, heightened by the eclat of the Disruption. But our younger men of subsequent appointment stand on no such platform, nor will any of their contemporaries or successors step upon it as a matter of course when the heroes of the conflict have dropped away, and they come to occupy their vacant places. Their status will be found to depend on two circumstances, neither of them derived from the men of a former time—on their ability to maintain a respectable place among the middle classes, and on their scholastic acquirements and general manners. A half-paid, half-taught, half-bred minister of religion may be a very excellent man; we have seen such, both in England and our own country, among the non-Presbyterian Dissenters who laboured to do well, and were exceedingly in earnest; but no such type of minister will ever be found influential in Scotland, either in extending the limits of a Church, or in benefiting the more intelligent classes of the people. And the two circumstances of acquirement and remuneration will be found indissolubly connected. A Church of under-paid ministers, however fairly it may start, will, in the lapse of a generation, become a Church of under-taught and under-bred ministers also. Nor is there any chance that the evil, once begun, will ever cure itself, for the under-bred and the under-taught will be sure to continue the under-paid. That animating spirit of a Church, without which wealth and learning avail but little, money now, as of old, cannot buy; but the secular will be ever found to depend on the secular,—the general rate of secular acquirement on the general rate of secular remuneration; and unless both be pitched at a level very considerably above that of the labouring laity, which constitutes the great bulk of congregations, even the better ministers of a Church need not expect to escape fine-bodyism. And once infected with this fatal indisposition, they must be content to suffer, among other evils, the evil of being permitted to lay whatever claim to status they may choose, without challenge or contradiction. 'Oh yes,' it will be said, should they assert that their Church is the Church of the nation, and that it is they themselves, and not the ministers of the Establishment, who are on the true constitutional ground,—'Oh yes, Church of the nation, or, if ye will, Church of the whole world, or, in short, anything you please; for you are fine bodies.' Chalmers exercised all his sagacity when he demanded of the Court of Teinds 'to be raised, and that as speedily as possible, above the imputation of being a fine body.' And what Chalmers demanded of the Court of Teinds, every minister of the Free Church ought to ask of the Sustentation Fund.
But how is the demand to be effectually made? It is well known to statesmen, who, when they once get a tax imposed by Parliament, can employ all the machinery of the police and the standing army—of fines, confiscations, and prisons—in exacting it, that yet, notwithstanding, in the arithmetic of finance two and two do not always make four. There are certain pre-existing laws to be studied—laws not of man's passing, but which arise out of man's nature and the true bearings and relations of things; and unless these be studied and conformed to, the Parliament-imposed tax, though backed by the constable and the jail, will realize but little. And if the statesman must study these laws, well may the Church do so, who has no constables in her pay, and to whom no jail-keys have been entrusted. It ought, we think, to be regarded as one fundamental law, that whatever has been gained by the seven years' establishment of the Fund, should not be lightly perilled by bold and untried innovations. True, there may, on the one hand, be danger, if let too much alone, that its growth should be arrested, and of its passing into a stunted and hide-bound condition, little capable of increase; but the danger is at least as great, on the other, that if subjected to fundamental changes, it might lose that advantage of permanency which whatever is established possesses in virtue of its being such; and which has its foundation in habit, and in that vague sense of responsibility which leads men to give, year after year, what they had been accustomed to give in the previous years, just because they had given it. Let it not be forgotten, that though much still remains to be done in connection with this Fund, much has been done already—that a voluntary tax of about eighty thousand pounds per annum, raised from about one-third, and that by no means the wealthiest third, of the Scottish people, is really not a small, but a great one—and that as great, and as worthy of being desired and equalled, do the other non-endowed Churches of the country regard it. No tampering, therefore, with its principle should be attempted: he was an eminently wise man who first devised and instituted it,—not once in an age do churches, or even countries, get such men to guide their affairs,—and it ought by all means to be permitted to set and consolidate in the mould which he formed for it. We would apply in this case the language of a philosophic writer of the last age, when speaking of government in general:—'An established order of things,' he said, 'has an infinite advantage, by the very circumstance of its being established. To tamper, therefore, to try experiments upon it, upon the credit of supposed fitness and improvement, can never be the part of a wise man, who will bear a reverence for what carries the marks of the stability of age; and though he may attempt some improvements for the public good, yet will he adjust his innovations as much as possible to the ancient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the institution.'
It ought, we hold, to be regarded as another law of the Fund, that the means taken to increase it should be means exclusively fitted to lead the givers to think of their duties, not of their rights. The Sustentation Fund is not the result of a tax properly so called, but an accumulation of freewill offerings rendered to the Church by men who in this matter are responsible to God only. What the Church receives on these terms she can divide; but what the givers do not place at her disposal—what, on the contrary, they reserve for quite another purpose—she cannot lay hold of and distribute. It is not hers, but theirs; and the attempt to appropriate it might be very fatal. Hence the danger of the question regarding the appropriation for general purposes of supplements, which was mooted two years ago, but which was so promptly put down by the good sense of the Church. It would have led men to contend for their rights, and, in the struggle, to forget their duties; and the battle would have been a losing one for the Fund. We regard it as another law, that the distribution of the sustentation money entrusted to the Church should be a distribution, not discretionary, but fixed by definite enactment. A discretionary licence of distribution, extended to some central board or committee, even though under the general review of the Church, could not be other than imminently dangerous, because opposed in spirit to the very principle of Presbytery. And if Presbytery and the Sustentation Fund come into collision in the Free Church of Scotland, it is not difficult to say which of the two would go down. It has been shrewdly remarked by Hume, that in monarchies there is room for discretionary power—the laws under a great and wise prince may in some cases be softened, or partially suspended, and carried into full effect in others; but republics admit of no such discretionary authority—the laws in them must in every instance be thoroughly executed, or set aside altogether. Every act of discretionary authority is treason against the constitution. And so is it with Presbytery. Give to a central board or committee the power of sitting in judgment on the circumstances of ministers of their body, and of apportioning to one some thirty or forty pounds additional, and of cutting down another to the average dividend, and, for a time at least, the Presbyterian independence is gone. But the reaction point once reached—and in the Free Church the process would not be a very tedious one—the discretionary authority would be swept away in the first instance, and the Sustentation Fund not a little damaged in the second. It is of paramount importance, therefore—a law on no account to be neglected or traversed—that the distribution of the Fund be regulated by rules so rigid and unbending, and of such general application, that the manifestation of favour or the exercise of patronage on the part of the board or committee authorized to watch over it may be wholly an impossibility.
It is, in the next place, of importance carefully to scan the sources whence the expected increase of the Fund is to come. The givers in the Free Church at the present time seem to lie very much in extremes. A considerable number, animated by the Disruption spirit, contribute greatly more to ministerial support, in proportion to their incomes, than the old Dissenters of the kingdom; but a still larger number, reposing indolently on the exertions of these, and in whom the habit has not been cultivated or formed, give considerably less. It was stated by Mr. Melvin, in the meeting of the United Presbyterian Synod held on Wednesday last, that, 'on an average, the members of weak congregations in connection with their body contributed to the support of their minister about 14s. 6d. per annum, besides about 2s. 6d. for missionary purposes, while some of them contributed even as high as 25s. to 26s.' Now, an average rate of contribution liberal as this, among the members of country congregations in the Free Church, would at once place the Fund in flourishing circumstances, and render it, unless its management was very unwise indeed, sufficient to maintain a ministry high above the dreaded level of fine-bodyism. Nor do we see why, if we except the crushed and poverty-stricken people of some of the poorer Highland districts, Free Church congregations in the country should not contribute as largely to church purposes as United Presbyterian congregations in the same localities. The membership of both belong generally to the same level of society, and, if equally willing, are about equally able to contribute. Here, then, is a field which still remains to be wrought. Something, too, may be done at the present time, from the circumstance that the last instalment of the Manse Building Fund is just in the act of being paid, and those who have been subscribing for five years to this object, and formed a habit of periodic giving in relation to it, may be induced to transfer a portion of what they gave to the permanent fund, and so continue contributing. Ere, however, they can be expected to do so, they must be fairly assured that what they give is to be employed in strengthening and consolidating the Church, and in raising her ministers above the level of fine-bodyism, not in adding to her weakness by adding to her extent. Until a distinct pledge be given that there shall not be so much as a single new charge sanctioned until the yearly dividend amounts to at least a hundred and fifty pounds, we must despair of the Sustentation Fund. One may hopefully attempt the filling up of a tun, however vast its contents; but there can be no hope whatever in attempting the filling of a sieve. And if what is poured into the Sustentation Fund is to be permitted, instead of rising in the dividend, to dribble out incontinently in a feeble extension, it will be all too soon discovered that what we have to deal with is not the tun, but the sieve; and the laity, losing all heart, will cease their exertions, and permit their ministers to sink into poverty and fine-bodyism.
May 15, 1850.
Some six or eight months after the Disruption there occurred an amusing dispute between two Edinburgh newspapers, each of which aspired to represent the Establishment solely and exclusively, without coadjutor or rival. The one paper asserted that it was the vehicle of the Established Church, the other that it was the Church's organ; and each, in asserting its own claim, challenged that of its neighbour. The organ was sure that the vehicle lacked the true vehicular character; and the vehicle threw grave doubts on the organship of the organ. In somewhat less than half a year, however, the dispute came suddenly to a close: the vehicle—like a luckless opposition coach, weak in its proprietorship—was run off the road, and broke down; and the triumphant organ, seizing eager hold of the name of its defunct rival as legitimate spoil, hung it up immediately under its own, as a red warrior of the West seizes hold of the scalp of a fallen enemy, and suspends it at his middle by his belt of wampum. The controversy, however, lasted quite long enough to lead curious minds to inquire how or on what principle a body so divided as the Established Church could possibly have either vehicle or organ.
If the organ, it was said, adequately represent Dr. Muir, it cannot fail very grievously to misrepresent Dr. Bryce; and if the vehicle be adapted to give public airings to the thoughts and opinions of the bluff old Moderates, those of Dr. Leishman and the Forty must travel out into the wind and the sunlight by an opposition conveyance. One organ or one vehicle will be no more competent to serve a deliberative ecclesiastical body, diverse in its components, than one organ or vehicle will be able to serve a deliberative political body broken into factions. Single parties, as such—whether secular or ecclesiastical—may have their single organ apiece; but it seems as little possible that a Presbyterian General Assembly should have only one organ representative of the whole, as that a House of Lords or a House of Commons should have one organ representative of the whole. An organ of the Establishment in its present state of disunion, if at all adequately representative, could not fail to resemble Montgomery's strange personification of war: 'A deformed genius, with two heads, which, unlike those of Janus, were placed front to front; innumerable arms, branching out all around his shoulders, sides, and chest; and with thighs and legs as multitudinous as his arms. His twin faces,' continues the poet, 'were frightfully distorted: they glared, they grinned, they spat, they railed, and hissed, and roared; they gnashed their teeth, and bit, and butted with their foreheads at each other; his arms, wielding swords and spears, were fighting pell-mell together; his legs, in like manner, were indefatigably at variance, striding contrary ways, and trampling on each other's toes, or kicking each other's shins, as if by mutual consent.' Such would be the true representative of an organ that adequately represented the Establishment.
We are led into this vein on the present occasion by a recent discussion in high quarters on the organship of the Free Church,—a Presbyterian body, be it remarked, as purely deliberative in its courts as the Parliament of the country, and at least sufficiently affected by the spirit of the age to include within its pale a considerable diversity of opinion. It is as impossible, from this cause alone, that the Free Church should be represented by a single organ, as that the House of Commons should be represented by a single organ. The organ, for instance, that represented on the education question the Rev. Mr. Moody Stuart, would most miserably misrepresent the party who advocate the views of the great father of the Free Church—the late Dr. Chalmers.
The organ that represented the peculiar beliefs held, regarding the personal advent, by the party to which Mr. Bonar of Kelso belongs, would greatly misrepresent those of the party to which Mr. David Brown of Glasgow and Mr. Fairbairn of Saltoun belong. The organ that advocated Dr. Cunningham's and Dr. James Buchanan's views of the College question, would be diametrically opposed to the view of Dr. Brown of Aberdeen and Mr. Gray of Perth. The organ that contended for an ecclesiastical right to legislate on the temporalities according to the principle of Mr. Hay of Whiterig, would provoke the determined opposition of Mr. Makgill Crichton of Rankeillour. The organ that took part with the Evangelical and Sabbath Alliances in the spirit of Dr. Candlish of St. George's, would have to defend its position against Mr. King of St. Stephen's of the Barony; and the organ that espoused the sentiments held on tests by Mr. Wood of Elie, would find itself in hostile antagonism with those entertained on the same subject by Mr. Gibson of Kingston. And such are only a few of the questions, and these of an ecclesiastical or semi-ecclesiastical character, regarding which a diversity of views, sentiments, and opinions in the Free Church renders it impossible that it can be adequately represented by any one organ, even should that organ be of a purely ecclesiastical character. But a newspaper is not of a purely ecclesiastical character; and there are subjects on which it may represent a vast majority of the people of a Church, without in the least degree representing the Church itself, simply because they are subjects on which a Church, as such, can hold no opinions whatever.
It is, for instance, not for a Church to say in what degree she trusts the Whigs or suspects the Tories—or whether her suspicion be great and her trust small—or whether she deem it more desirable that Edinburgh should be represented by Mr. Cowan, than mis-represented by Mr. Macaulay. These, and all cognate matters, are matters on which the Church, as such, has no voice, and regarding which she can therefore have no organ; and yet these are matters with which a newspaper is necessitated to deal. It would be other than a newspaper if it did not. On these questions, however, which lie so palpably beyond the ecclesiastical pale, though the Church can have no organ, zealous Churchmen may; and there can be no doubt whatever that they are questions on which zealous Free Churchmen are very thoroughly divided—so thoroughly, that any single newspaper could represent, in reference to them, only one class. The late Mr. John Hamilton, for instance—a good and honest man, who, in his character as a Free Churchman, determinedly opposed the return of Mr. Macaulay—was wholly at issue regarding some of these points with the Honourable Mr. Fox Maule, who in 1846 mounted the hustings to say that the 'gratitude and honour of the Free Church' was involved in Mr. Macaulay's return. And so the organ that represented the one, could not fail to misrepresent the other. Now, we are aware that on this, and on a few other occasions, the Witness must have given very considerable dissatisfaction in the political department to certain members of the Free Church. It was not at all their organ on these occasions; nay, at the very outset of its career, it had solemnly pledged itself not to be their organ.
The following passage was written by its present Editor, ere the first appearance of his paper, and formed a part of its prospectus:—'The Witness,' he said, 'will not espouse the cause of any of the political parties which now agitate and divide the country.' 'Public measures, however, will be weighed as they present themselves in an impartial spirit, with care proportioned to their importance, and with reference not to the party with which they may chance to originate, but to the principles which they shall be found to involve.' Such was the pledge given by the Editor of the Witness; and he now challenges his readers to say whether he has not honestly redeemed it. Man is naturally a tool-making animal; and when he becomes a politician by profession, his ingenuity in this special walk of constructiveness is, we find, always greatly sharpened by the exigencies of his vocation.
He makes tools of bishops, tools of sacraments, tools of Confessions of Faith, and tools of Churches and church livings.
We had just seen, previous to the debut of the Witness, the Church of Scotland converted by Conservatism into a sort of mining tool, half lever, half pickaxe, which it plied hard, with an eye to the prostration and ejection of its political opponents the Whigs, then in office; and not much pleased to see the Church which we loved and respected so transmuted and so wielded, we solemnly determined that, so far at least as our modicum of influence extended, no tool-making politician, whatever his position, should again convert it unchallenged into an ignoble party utensil. With God's help, we have remained true to our determination; and so assured are we of being supported in this matter by the sound-hearted Presbyterian people of the Free Church, that we have no fear whatever, should either the assertors among us of the unimpeachable consistency of the Conservatives, or of the immaculate honesty of the Whigs, start against us an opposition vehicle to-morrow, that in less than a twelvemonth we would run it fairly off the road, and have some little amusement with it to boot, so long as the contest continued. The Witness is not, and, as we have shown, cannot be, the organ of the Free Church; but it is something greatly better: it is the trusted representative—against Whig, Tory, Radical, and Chartist—against Erastian encroachment and clerical domination—of the Free Church people. There lies its strength,—a strength which its political Free Church opponents are welcome to test when they please.
We must again express our regret that the article on the Duke of Buccleuch, which has proved the occasion of so much remark, spoken and written, should have ever appeared in our columns; and this, not, as the agent of the Duke asserts, because it has been exposed, but because of the unhappy unsolidity of its facts, and because of that diversion of the public attention which it has effected from cases such as those of Canobie and Wanlockhead, and from such a death-bed as that of the Rev. Mr. Innes. Our readers are already in possession of our explanation, and have seen it fully borne out by the incidental statement of Mr. Parker. We would crave leave to remind them that the Witness is now in the ninth year of its existence; and that during that time the Editor stated many facts, from his own observation, connected with the refusal of sites, and other matters of a similar character. He saw congregations worshipping on bare hill-sides in the Highlands of Sutherland, and on an oozy sea-beach on the coast of Lochiel; he sailed in the Free Church yacht the Betsey, and worshipped among the islanders of Eigg and of Skye. Nor did he shrink from very minutely describing what he had witnessed on these occasions, nor yet from denouncing the persecution that had thrust out some of the best men and best subjects of the country, to worship unsheltered amid bleak and desert wastes, or on the bare sea-shore.
And yet, of all the many facts which he thus communicated on his own authority, because resting on his own observation, not one of them has ever yet been disproved; nay, scarce one of them has ever yet been so much as challenged.
Of course, in reference to the statements which he has had to make on the testimony of others, his position was necessarily different; and a very delicate matter he has sometimes found it to be, to deal with these statements. A desire, on the one hand, to expose to the wholesome breathings of public opinion whatever was really oppressive and unjust; a fear, on the other, lest he should compromise the general cause, or injure the character of his paper, by giving publicity to what either might not be true, or could not be proven to be true,—have often led him to retain communications beside him for weeks and months, until some circumstance occurred that enabled him to determine regarding their real character and value. And such—with more, however, than the ordinary misgivings, and with an unfavourable opinion frankly and decidedly expressed—was the course which he took with the communicated article on the Duke of Buccleuch.
That the testing circumstance which did occur in the course of the long period during which it was thus held in retentis was not communicated to him, or to any other official connected with the Witness, he much regrets, but could not possibly help.
In the discussion on the Sites Bill of Wednesday last, the Honourable Fox Maule is made to say, that 'the Witness contained many articles which had been condemned by the Church.'
Now this must be surely a misreport, as nothing could be more grossly incorrect than such a statement. The voice of the Free Church—that by which she condemns or approves—can be emitted through but her deliberative courts, and recorded in but the decisions of her solemn Assemblies. On the merits or demerits of the Witness, through these her only legitimate organs, she has not yet spoken; and Mr. Maule is, we are sure, by far too intelligent a Churchman to mistake the voice of a mere political coterie, irritated mayhap by the loss of an election, for the solemn deliverance of a Church of Christ. With respect to his reported statement, to the effect that the Witness 'contained many articles which had done great harm to the Free Church,' the report may, we think, be quite correct. The Witness contained a good many articles on the special occasion when the Free Churchmen of Edinburgh conspired—'ungratefully and dishonourably,' as Mr. Maule must have deemed it—to eject a Whig Minister, and to place in his seat, as their representative, a shrewd citizen and honest man.
And these lucubrations accomplished, we daresay, their modicum of harm. With regard, however, to the articles of the Witness in general, we think we can confidently appeal in their behalf to such of our readers as perused them, not as they were garbled, misquoted, interpolated, and mis-represented by unscrupulous enemies, but as they were first given to the public from the pen of the Editor. Among these readers we reckon men of all classes, from the peer to the peasant—Conservative landowners, magistrates, merchants, ministers of the gospel. Dr. Chalmers was a reader of the Witness from its first commencement to his death; and he, perusing its editorial articles as they were originally written—not as they were garbled or interpolated in other prints—saw in them very little to blame.
Not but that some of our sentences look sufficiently formidable in extracts when twisted from their original meaning; and this, just as the Decalogue itself might be instanced as a code of licentiousness, violence, and immorality, were it to be exhibited in garbled quotations, divested of all the nots. In the Edinburgh Advertiser of yesterday, for instance, we find the following passage:—'It [The Witness] has menaced our nobles with the horrors of the French Revolution, when the guillotine plied its nightly task, and when the "bloody hearts of aristocrats dangled on button-holes in the streets of Paris." It has reminded them of the time when a "grey discrowned head sounded hollow on the scaffold at Whitehall;" insinuating that, if they persisted in opposing the claims of the Free Church, a like fate might overtake the reigning dynasty of our time.'
When, asks the reader, did these most atrocious threats appear in the Witness?
They never, we reply, appeared in the Witness as threats at all. The one passage, almost in the language of Chateaubriand, was employed in an article in which we justified the sentence pronounced on the atheist Patterson. The other formed part of a purely historic reference—in an article on Puseyism, written ere the Free Church had any existence—to the Canterburianism of the times of Charles I., and the fate of that unhappy monarch. We thought not of threatening the aristocracy when quoting the one passage, nor yet of foreboding evil to the existing dynasty when writing the other. On exactly the same principle on which these passages have been instanced to our disadvantage, the description of the Holoptychius Nobilissimus, which appeared a few years ago in the Witness, might be paraded as a personal attack on Sir James Graham; and the remarks on the construction of the Pterichthys, as a gross libel on the Duke of Buccleuch. It is, we hold, not a little to the credit of the Witness, that, in order to blacken its character, means should be resorted to of a character so disreputable and dishonest. From truth and fair statement it has all to hope, and nothing to fear.